Sunday, August 18, 2002

Yes Phillip,

Yes "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there."

Let’s take the 1940’s, a time that Phillip Adams and the ALP recall as blessed. Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley made it clear that the future of Australia lay in the protection of our “great and powerful friends” in the United States, the better to protect the country from the yellow hordes to the north. Remember, in the words of perennial Opposition Leader, UN founder, Immigration Minister and nutcase, Herbert “Doc” Evatt, “Two Wongs don’t make a white”.

When the light on the hill was in danger of going out because of a strike by miner’s unions, Chifley founded the great ALP tradition in industrial relations: he sent the army in to break the strike. In later times, Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke would uphold the vision by using the Air Force to prevent any harm coming to his close friend’s airline holdings.

The 1940’s were a glorious time for women, with the Federal Government in thrall to the power of that well-known champion of women’s rights, the Catholic Church. Women had no access to abortion or contraception, and union strangleholds made sure they could not reach any measure of financial independence by entering blue collar jobs.

In industry, rising tariffs kept international firms at bay, while inflating the price of superior products. Nothing helps the lower classes like rent-seeking industries.

Aborigines could not vote or be counted in the census. It took another 20 years (and a change of government) to bring that to an end.

In the field of financial regulation, only organised religion can match the Australian Labor Party for its ability to extract wildly different outcomes while claiming to be upholding exactly the same principles. The Chifley Banking Act of 1947 proposed to nationalise the entire banking system, placing control of the banks in the hands of an avowedly socialist Government. It was ruled unconstitutional in 1949, and a good thing too. Otherwise how could that self-declared friend of the working class, Treasurer (later Prime Minister) Paul Keating have been in a position to deregulate the financial system in Australia, giving free rein to the terrible terrible 1980’s. Elected again and again, and bankrolled in no small part by a good many of the spivs, crooks and main chance artists that led the storm of speculation, culminating in Keating’s final gift to the working class, 17 per cent interest rates, and one million unemployed.

But never mind. He wore a good suit, talked up the Republic, and made sure that the right jobs went to the right people. And that’s all that matters.

Even today, Labor manages to reconcile their past record of government asset divestiture with today’s firm stance against government asset divestiture. Their support for Suhartoe with support for invading, if necessary, East Timor. Their support for possibly invading sovereign Indonesian territory, with their insistence that we not invade Iraq. And the choicest of all, their writing of the regulations on mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals, with their stern lecturing on the evils of the mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals.

Yes, the 1940’s were a grand time. Stalinists to the left of them, hard-line Catholics to right, the USA to back them up, and nowhere to go but down in a screaming electoral heap, condemned to stay there for 23 years because they couldn’t carry an election in a bucket. Good times.

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